Last Friday, March 2, for the second consecutive year, I was honored to be one of the adults invited to take part in the annual Woodford
County Middle School (WCMS) Career Day.
(See story on page 1)
Joining me were people with real jobs. Among them were a prosecutor, a pharmacist, and an employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who I’m pretty sure was packing heat, though didn’t seem all that much older than the middle-schoolers.
Then, as was the case last year, there was a Trader Joe’s table – maybe two or three of them lined up to form one mega-table – with tea and other treats from the Lexington grocery. Trader Joe’s once again led the league in table visits.
Most visitors brought props, like the pharmacist with (fake) pills, trays and other devices, or, at the table next to mine, lacrosse and field hockey gear brought by Transylvania University staff. One coach showed the kids how to dribble with the proper side of a field hockey stick. (Lacrosse lessons might have been a bit too dangerous.)
An ophthalmic technician even brought pig eyes.
My hazels can’t compete with pig eyes.
I was armed only with a notebook, camera, recorder and a piece of paper with my name and occupation.
Though we don’t use them at The Sun anymore, I should have brought a typewriter. I think there’s one in a storage room in the back. The IBM Selectric like the one I learned to type on in junior high school might have attracted the attention of computer/cell phone-age kids who like dinosaurs and other relics of the past.
I would have gotten an inferiority complex if I didn’t already have one.
But seriously, folks – it was a great event, and I did have plenty of kids who stopped by to ask questions, some of whom didn’t even know about the red tickets that presenters awarded for good questions.
My aim was to interview some of the other adults there and take notes on what sort of things the students asked.
The kids were motivated by natural curiosity and, perhaps, the red tickets, which at the end of the half-day, would go into a very large bowl for a drawing. The winner would get free tickets to Sky Zone, a trampoline park in Lexington.
Three times (thank you, Afton and Emma and Dalton) I was asked some version of, “What’s your favorite story?” and three times, I didn’t have an answer. I tried to give a few examples, explaining that I’d written several thousand newspaper, television and radio stories, and no one favorite came to mind. I did happen to mention the Midwest Regional Emmy I won many moons ago for a story about illegal dumping, but pointed out that while it wasn’t half-bad, it wasn’t my best or my favorite.
Andrea asked how often I got to cover big events. I told her that I’d covered presidential visits, but didn’t tell her they weren’t as much fun as they might seem.
Lilyona asked if people had to go to school to become journalists. I told her that you don’t need a journalism degree to be in the field – I have a bachelor’s in history/government – but you do need to be able to write good.
(That was a joke. In television news, you don’t need to write good, especially if you’re attractive.)
(And yes, I know – the term is “write well.”)
Zachary asked how long I’d been a journalist. Not counting my teaching and political sabbaticals, 25 years or so, I told him.
Sean asked how many pages I’d written. Assuming he meant “How many stories?” I told him I didn’t know, but the answer had to be in the many many thousands.
Early on, I realized I was giving my red tickets away too quickly, like new homeowners at Halloween who realize they’ll run out of candy before kids. I raised the bar for ticket-winning questions, no longer accepting, “So you’re a journalist?”
All jokes aside, the kids were polite, enthusiastic and, just like last year when one summed up what I do by saying, “So you go out into the world and tell about it,” they made me think. It was a pleasure to attend, though I wasn’t able to stay for the final session. Still, after asking two children whether their families were Sun subscribers, I left a bit more concerned about the future of my profession. In essence, they each said the same thing: “No, but my mamaw does.”